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An increasing body of evidence suggests that proper dental care — including regular flossing — can do more than keep your smile pretty and healthy.

A healthy mouth can also help prevent much more serious diseases, some of which can be life threatening. But if you’re still not convinced that you should add flossing to your daily routine, we’ve got four examples to make the case that flossing is extremely important.

1. Flossing Prevents Tartar Buildup

Few parts of a regular dental visit are as uncomfortable as the scraping the dentist or hygienist must do to remove tartar. Tartar is a hard buildup of plaque that forms around the gum line. Once it’s there, it can’t be removed without professional help. But thanks to floss, health-conscious individuals have a powerful tool to fight this stubborn problem.

2. Flossing Helps Prevent Other Diseases

Tooth and gum disease can have effects that go far beyond discoloured teeth, discomfort or bad breath. Extensive research has shown that the bacteria that flourish in an unhealthy mouth can harm the rest of the body, leading to heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illness.

3. Flossing Protects Your Gums Too

It’s easier to understand the role that flossing can play in good oral hygiene by seeing how teeth are situated in the gums and jaw. At the root of this structure — literally — are the bones of the lower and upper jaws. The jaws anchor the teeth by their roots, and the bones and roots are covered by the soft, sensitive tissue of the gums.

4. Flossing and Brushing Are More Effective Than Brushing Alone

If you’re like a lot of people, your first response to your dentist’s flossing recommendation may be “I brush my teeth, so I’m fine.” While brushing your teeth twice a day will go a long way toward maintaining oral health, you’re not getting the optimal cleaning if you leave the floss unused in the back of your medicine cabinet.

A toothbrush works by physically removing plaque — a sticky, bacteria-laden film — from your teeth with its soft bristles. Toothpaste enhances the effect of the toothbrush, and kinds that contain fluoride help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. But brushing has one big drawback: A toothbrush’s bristles can’t adequately clean between the teeth or under the gums.